Emerald Connection, November 12, 2023

In 6th grade, we have been exploring the elements of demography and how unstable politics can lead to surges in migration. The students narrowed that lens particularly on refugees from the Middle East and their journeys to find safety in Europe. We have just finished reading “Nowhere Boy,” a novel about a boy from Syria who has become a refugee, which helped bring these recent historical crises to life in the form of an engaging narrative. During our unit, we have continued to discuss how dangerous stereotypes and close-minded attitudes are. The students studied the geography of Europe and the Middle East. They learned about Islam and some common customs and traditions for many Syrians. They have found common values and humanity in many different cultures. “Although cultures are different, there are so many similarities you can find,” one student reflected. Another pointed out, “There is beauty that can be found in every culture.”

To celebrate our learning, we decided to have a traditional Syrian-style tea. The students wrote to the American Syrian Arab Cultural Association to learn what foods, tea, and seating style were most authentic and respectful. “Being culturally open-minded allows you to help and respect others,” a 6th grader reflected. So, from there, students (and their parents) baked delicious Arab desserts, and we all enjoyed having tea in glass cups to be able to appreciate the deep brown-red color…per instructions.

After our tea, we discussed what was interesting, delicious, or not our favorite. The tea apparently needed more sugar. However, the students were pleasantly surprised, commenting, “The baklava and kunafa were surprisingly good even though they had spices I wasn’t used to.” “I learned that it is fun to try new things. Often you find you like things, and even if you don’t, it is worth a shot.”

Luckily, the takeaway was that “Traditions are very important, and we should respect people and their traditions,” and, “Being connected to people is essential to happiness, and sharing tea is a way to connect.”